Troy University’s Campus Kitchens has inaugurated a program to start or expand local community gardens in order to provide services to other organizations within the Troy community.
The main goal of these gardens is to provide both supplemental food and education to the Kitchens’ client agencies, according to Holly Elkins, a clinical mental health counseling graduate student from Opelika.
According to Elkins, each garden is located at a different organization and holds a different purpose. The Christian Love Center, for example, is the largest community garden, and its main purpose is to provide supplemental food for families that use the center’s services and the food pantry that they have.
Its Pre-K program also uses the garden for educational purposes. Children are taught about growing, harvesting and cooking their own food.
In contrast, the main goal of the garden located at the Colley Senior Complex is anti-isolation. According to Elkins, this is done by getting community members and students to work with the seniors; getting them outside in the fresh air and working together. The seniors also learn to prepare different meals.
“One of Campus Kitchens’ big programs is going beyond the meal,” Elkins said.
“So we wanted to take what we were doing and go beyond the meal as well. The best way to do that is through community gardening.”
To get the gardens started, Campus Kitchens applied for a grant through CoBank, which funds agricultural advancements as well as community gardens.
CoBank works closely with the Campus Kitchens Project to help fund different university projects throughout the nation.
Through the grants provided by CoBank, Campus Kitchens was able to expand on existing gardens such as the one at the Christian Love Center.
Through the expansion, many more families in the area were able to receive more supplemental food, according to Elkins.
“One of the ways we do that is through our meal prep program, which is probably the one most students are aware of,” Elkins said. “Definitely drop by 122 Eldridge Hall; that’s the best way.”
Volunteer shifts are on Monday and Wednesday from 3 to 5 p.m. Transportation is provided for students to get out to the gardens to tend and harvest.
Campus Kitchens collects excess, untouched foods from the dining halls, reapportions them, freezes them overnight and then delivers them on Friday.
“Being able to help with something like that was really refreshing,” said Jacob Chlebek, a freshman from Enterprise, who has worked in the gardens.
“I definitely left gross and sweaty, but I had a great feeling of accomplishment and success. Plus, the entire group that was there was very appreciative and nice. I even got a free ice pop.”
“Students can also contact the different agencies on their own if those times don’t work for their schedules,” Elkins said.
“The Christian Love Center, the Boys and Girls Club and the Colley Senior Complex all are located here in Troy.”
Students can be involved with meal preparation on Thursdays and delivery on Fridays. Everything can be signed up for in the Campus Kitchens’ office in Eldridge.